Monday, May 15, 2023

Finding You by Robert Vescio illustrated by Hannah Sommerville

As the story opens we see a young boy in a sepia city scene. He is in a bright yellow jumper (bright pops of canary yellow symbolise hope and warmth) and he is looking across the page which means our eye follows his line of sight to the facing page where we see a small dog. The dog glows a little under soft spot light. 

"I watch you from afar. Roaming lost and alone."

The boy befriends the small stray dog and he gently ties a red polka dot scarf around his neck. Now the new friends begin their adventure across the city. Parts of this reminded me of Mutt Dog by Stephen Michael King. See images at the bottom of this post.

Then the pair arrive at a crossroad. One way is dark and cold and the other is light and full of colour. In a joyous moment the pup takes the colourful path to the boy's home but this is where this book takes a strange twist because we see a small dog house in the garden, and in the boy's bedroom there are photos of the boy and his little dog so was this all just a game of imagination? Did this pup already live with this little boy and they were just having a day of adventures?

This book is a beautiful example of a book which has illustrations which interpret and extend the text in a wonderful way. If I was using this book with a group of children I would be tempted to begin with a reading of the text without the illustrations. I think this would be a great way to see both the interpretation of the text by the illustrator and also to realise the way these illustrations are invested with such enormous emotion. Readers need to ‘join the dots’. 

And there are beautiful word choices in this story - the page above for example has "scratchy lavender fields"; "crunchy carpeted forests"; "creaky knotted trees"; and "springy moss hills". 

In this book, the title and title page are so important. The child finds the red and white polka dot scarf on the footpath. Then he uses the familiar object to lure his pup. As they near home there is an illustration filled with colour and light – rather like walking into heaven. When the pair arrive home, we see, as I said already, a dog house. The dog has come home and he is so loved.  

On the page ‘I show you different things, places to amaze’ Hannah Sommerville has added a wealth of ideas. If you look closely, you can see the forest is inside a greenhouse. But the words are not really simple they have been written with enormous care. The page turns are perfectly paced and paced. What does the count down on the calendar represent? There are so many delicious extra details in the illustrations which readers will enjoy re-visiting and the changes of perspective add so much interest and intimacy

This is an intriguing book which can be read on many levels. Is it about homelessness or belonging or making choices? The story is open-ended and the pacing allows the reader to pause, where needed, to explore the ideas and illustrations. 

Here are some review comments:

Short, sharp sentences pack a mighty punch as the narrator tells of his journey where the pair met, and connected, for the first time. Alone in the harsh, bustling streets where ‘no one seems to notice’. While it’s cold and unsheltered from the weather, a smile brings warmth to his heart. The boy and the dog find adventure, accented by Sommerville’s alluring illustrations – the warmth and energy found amongst her textured, linen-quality paint, line and etched mixture of moving sequences and full page spreads. Beautifully moody backgrounds of deep greys, purples, greens and browns always glistening with the pops of bright yellow in the boy’s top. From sunshine to storms, we can feel their closeness tightening with the formation of a very special bond. Just Kids Lit

There is an underlying theme in this story which seems to be about a small boy and his dog on an adventure – or not. It also mirrors the story of  how a newcomer might feel roaming and lost and choosing whether to take the dark and cold or the light and colourful ‘road’ until you find the perfect place to live. Child Mags

Finding You, masterfully written by Robert Vescio and exquisitely illustrated by Hannah Sommerville is a heartfelt, tender story about new beginnings and how these often involve courage and being open to possibilities. It’s a story about the beauty in the unexpected, the journey of friendship, unbreakable bonds that form between people and pets as well as being compassionate to the vulnerable members in our community. Reading opens doors

A richly layered story resonating with themes of homelessness, companionship, love, adventure, family and more. Storylinks

Here are some brief teachers notes.

Hannah Sommerville is the illustrator of the CBCA Early Childhood winner last year - Jetty Jumping. Robert Vescio is an Australian author. He lives in Sydney, NSW. His new book due later this year is Nature's Song.  Here are a few of his books:

Here is the cover and an illustration from Mutt Dog which would be the perfect companion read and the scene with the box from Finding You for comparison.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful review and spot on. You nailed it! Thank you for your thorough and in-depth write-up. Makes everything I do worthwhile. Much appreciated. Robert Vescio

Momo said...

Glad my words made you happy.